Last month BMW’s i-Series models crossed a cumulative global 50,000 unit sale milestone.
Comprised at this point of the i3 and i8, the two plug-in i-Series sub-brand cars were launched in Germany in September 2013 and June 2014 respectively and have since spread globally.
While BMW did not provide a precise breakdown for their January sales, the longer-on-the-market and less-costly i3 – in all-electric and REx versions – comprised close to 83 percent of the total, with the six-figure i8 plug-in hybrid sports car trailing.
Through December, the tally according to BMW was 41,586 i3 sales and 7,197 i8 sales.
The i3 is sold in 49 countries, the i8 is targeted at as many, but the largest markets by far are a mere handful. These are the U.S., Germany, Norway, and the UK.
Respective sales for the i3 in these markets through December are 17,116 in the U.S., 5,063 in Germany, 4,494 in Norway, 3,747 in the UK, and 1,348 in Switzerland.
Leading i8 markets are 2,820 sales in the U.S., 964 in the UK, and 793 in Germany.
The two frontrunners in BMW’s advanced engineering effort have taken off comparably to other top plug-in cars launched earlier, and further ahead in cumulative sales.
Total i-Series sales started with just 1,477 units in 2013, then increased to 17,793 in 2014, 29,513 in 2015 and in January 2016 the tally was 1,255.
By comparison, the Nissan Leaf launched in December 2010 saw its 50,000th global sale in February 2013, and GM’s Chevy/Holden Volt and Opel/Vaxhall Ampera siblings are estimated to have crossed 50,000 about mid 2013.
BMW did its homework with electrification for several years prior to launching its i-Series sub brand vehicles.
In 2009 it leased out 600 Mini E coupes which had been converted to EV duty, and these were followed in January 2012 with all-electric ActiveE coupes based on the BMW 1-Series.
The i3 was also a gleam in its maker’s eye during the time when the Mini E experiment was ongoing, and had been called the Mega City Vehicle (MCV) in anticipation of urbanization trends.
In 2010 the New York Times reported the UN estimated that cities of 3.2 million would increase by 2030 to 5 million, and by 2050 70 percent of the world’s populations would live in cities.
So, the MCV idea came along, but the i8 and i3 – as well as a slew of other plug-in hybrids BMW is bringing to market – are further intended to offset regulations.
Adding to the efforts, today it was reported also BMW coined another sub brand designation – “iPerformance” – for its plug-in hybrid variants, but the i3 and i8 are technological showcases and purpose built to be only what they are.
In making them, BMW commercialized carbon fiber reinforced plastic – formerly the province of advanced race cars – which reduces weight while increasing strength over comparable steel and alloy materials.
The plant that makes these CFRP pieces is in Moses Lake, Wash., BMW invested $100 million to build it, and it relies on hydroelectric sourced power adding to eco-friendliness baked in.
Rumors and reports of potential additions to the i-Series have come along, but to date the i3 and i8 are it.
In anticipation of competitive cars pending including 200-plus mile range EVs from Chevrolet, Opel, Tesla, and Nissan, BMW will reportedly improve its i3’s existing battery for a longer 124 mile range.
Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help in compiling figures.